Perfect Winter Soup for Russian Recipes Revisited: Beef and White Beans Soup

October is almost over, so it's time for this month's Russian Recipes Revisited post. This time I give you one of my favorite recipes that my mom has been making ever since I remember: Beef and White Beans Soup. This soup is perfect for chilly days or nights, and is quite easy to make: it just takes a while to simmer.

It's hard to believe this is the first time I've ever made this soup. It has a great beef flavor, with soft and tender white beans, root vegetables and fork tender beef. The idea to make this recipe came to me when I was talking to my little brother {ok, he's actually almost 25 years old, but he'll always be a little brother to me} and he told me he was making beef and white bean soup. I asked him to give me a list of ingredients and directions and went grocery shopping that same day. I've altered some of Misha's directions slightly and here's what I came up with:

Perfect Winter Soup for Russian Recipes Revisited: Beef and White Beans Soup
Serves an army

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 pound piece of beef chuck tender roast
salt & pepper
4 quarts water
1.5 cups white beans soaked overnight
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-3" pieces
6 celery stalks, cut into 2-3" pieces
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 2-3" pieces
2 onions, peeled and quartered
10 garlic cloves, peeled
chopped parsley to garnish

{dry beans on the left, soaked beans on the right}

1. Heat oil in your largest soup pot, at least 6 quarts.
2. Season the beef with salt and pepper and brown on both sides.
3. Pour four quarts of water, bring to a boil and skim all the gunk that comes to the surface until you end up with clear liquid. This will take about 15 minutes.

4. Once you have clear broth, turn the heat down and simmer the beef covered for an hour and a half.
5. Add the beans and the vegetables. Season with more salt and pepper. After bringing the soup back to a boil, lower the heat and simmer the soup covered for about an hour, or until the beans are tender.

This is what the beef and vegetables look like after they've been cooked.

To serve, shred the beef, or chop it, and put it on the bottom of the soup bowl. Add the beans and the vegetables and cover with the broth. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

1. Use a piece of meat with a lot of marbeling
2. Use a piece of meat with a bone in it.
{I disregarded both, but passing them on to you so you can do what you want.}

I must admit that this was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much soup for one person, but I made it till the end of the soup pot ;) It's great with a few squirts of sriracha or even a little bit of mayonnaise.

Make this soup for your family soon!

Thank you mom for making this soup for me a zillion times, and thank you Misha for giving me the recipe. ♥

Here's a picture of Misha and me ;)


Fun Idea for Pumpkin Decorating: Permanent Markers, Sparkly Nail Polish & Orla Kiely

Here's the truth: I really don't care about Halloween. I didn't grow up with this holiday, and other than the dark chocolate candy that goes on sale after Halloween, I could not care less for it. Ok, I do like seeing adorable costumes my friends get for their kids.

What I do love, though, is fall. And pumpkins, even though they appear in too many desserts and even coffee during fall, are cute and fun to use as decorations.

Yesterday I bought a pumpkin to decorate for my condo, but did not want to carve it. So I used a pretty wrapping paper that reminded me of Orla Kiely designs as my inspiration, and permanent markers and sparkly nail polish as my tools.

Fun Idea for Pumpkin Decorating: Permanent Markers, Sparkly Nail Polish & Orla Kiely

1) Draw black dividing lines following the natural shape of the pumpkin
2) Draw leaves in different colors using permanent markers and color them in
3) Use sparkly nail polish to add a bit of fun!

Not only was this fun to do, but it will last a lot longer than a carved pumpkin. If you have kids, this will be a lot of fun for them as long as they don't draw on themselves using the permanent markers ;)

And here it is making friends with one of my orchids.

Have you decorated or carved pumpkins this year? What design did you use?


Easy Recipe for Any Meal of the Day: Caprese Frittata

I know that technically dinner should be the lightest meal in the day, but that rarely works for me. It's not that I eat a three course dinner every day, far from it, but I do enjoy having something filling after a day of work whether I'm meeting my friends for dinner or cooking for one.

On some occasions, however, I do prefer a light dinner. Those occasions are typically the nights when I go salsa dancing. This past Friday I just had a simple Caprese salad (tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil) and a sliced avocado.

Over the weekend, I decided to take the ingredients from the Caprese salad, add eggs and make a Caprese Frittata.

Easy Recipe for Any Meal of the Day: Caprese Frittata
For 1
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
2 eggs
splash of milk
salt & pepper
4 slices fresh mozzarella
4 mini tomatoes, sliced
4 fresh basil leaves (plus extra ones for garnish)

1. Preheat your broiler.
2. In an oven safe pan, heat the oil.
3. Whisk the eggs with a splash of milk and season with salt and pepper. Pour into the oil and allow to cook on low heat until the eggs are almost set.
4. Place mozzarella and tomato slices in a pretty pattern and top with basil leaves.

5. Put the skillet under the broiler until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Be careful your frittata doesn't burn.

6. Season with a bit more salt, top with chopped fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

Isn't it a beauty? I ate it directly out of a skillet.

This is a great late breakfast, lunch or a light dinner. You can eat it as is or with a salad and a few slices of bread.



F*ck Forks: a finger-lickin' culinary crusade against cancer

If you've never met me, you probably don't realize that I like to swear. Words like sh*t and f*ck come out of my mouth more often than my parents or even my sister would like. Maybe I should work on that...

When Kyle invited me to attend the F*ck Forks event that will raise money to fight cancer for Fuck Cancer organization, I was happy to accept her invitation. The event will combine my love for food and drinks (10 chefs and 4 mixologists!), one of my favorite bad words, and a great cause!

If you are in DC Thursday, October 24th and would like to attend the event, get your tickets now!

You'll eat fork-free food, listen to live music from DJ Kid Cannibal and experience interactive art by ArtJamz all while raising money for a good cause.

Disclosure: my ticket is being provided by industree.

FCancer is a non-profit cancer education organization aiming to erase late stage cancer diagnosis and create a more human cancer movement. Harnessing social media, FCancer targets Gen Y to educate about early detection, preventative lifestyles and communication around cancer. Yael Cohen started FCancer in 2009 after her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she learned that 90% of cancer is curable when caught in stage one. Yael surrounded herself with cancer research, medical professionals and studies so she could best understand what her mom was going through, why it happened and how to be the best caregiver possible. Determined to marshal strength for her mom, Yael decided to use the “F” word to fight the “C” word, creating t-shirts for her mom and family that read "F*** Cancer." After seeing the strong response the t-shirts elicited Yael saw a void in the cancer space for an authentic community for those affected by cancer. FCancer strives to create a more passionate and authentic cancer movement focusing on the psychological, not just the physiological and communicating in a human and effective way - making it a little less scary for patients, family and caregivers alike. Creating unique tools and campaigns, using technology, humor, and celebrities FCancer enables its community to engage with cancer on a different level. For more information on FCancer, please visit www.letsfcancer.com


Butternut Squash Soup with Aleppo Peppers, Chickpeas & Pepitas

Oh butternut! Sometimes you remind me of myself. Hard on the outside, but shiny and gorgeous on the inside. I'm not even kidding :) Also, just like me, butternut squash is incredibly versatile and is so good for you!

Last week I picked up a butternut squash at the grocery store and decided to make soup. But I wanted to make this butternut squash soup different from the other ones I've made. No curry. No coconut milk. No roasted pears or apples. Instead, I decided to spice things up with aleppo peppers and add crispy chickpeas and pepitas for some texture.

Butternut Squash Soup with Aleppo Peppers, Chickpeas & Pepitas
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
1 red onion, chopped into 1" pieces
3 garlic cloves, smashed
salt & pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons aleppo pepper
32 ounces low sodium chicken broth (or use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian)
topping: Crispy Chickpeas & Pepitas with Za'atar

{aleppo pepper on the left, green za'atar on the right} 

1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add butternut squash, onions, garlic, salt & pepper, and alepppo pepper and saute for 15 minutes.

2. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pot and cook until the vegetables are completely tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the chickpeas and pepitas for the topping.

4. Using a stick blender, puree the soup till smooth. Add more salt and/or aleppo pepper if needed.
5. Serve topped with crispy chickpeas and pepitas and a dash of green za'atar.

I really liked the flavor of this soup: it was earthy and reminded me of fall. It's great on a chilly day or night, and gets better as it sits in your refrigerator.

What's your favorite thing to do with butternut squash soup?


Accidental Snack: Crispy Chickpeas & Pepitas with Za'atar

This Crispy Chickpeas & Pepitas with Za'atar idea came accidentally. I was making a butternut squash soup and wanted something crunchy to add to the otherwise smooth recipe. Don't worry, I'll share the recipe next week. I happened to have a container of home cooked chickpeas in my refrigerator and another container of pepitas left over from the Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans, Avocado & Feta I made earlier.

Pepitas are pumpkin seeds! They can be found in your local grocery store and are great as additions to salads, granola, soups, or as a snack.

So I decided to combine the chickpeas with pepitas and add za'atar to spice things up! Za'atar, in case you've never heard of it, is a combination of spices and sesame seeds. It comes in green, red and brown varieties. Use whichever one you want.

Accidental Snack: Crispy Chickpeas & Pepitas with Za'atar

olive oil
1 part chickpeas (home cooked are awesome, but you can use canned too)
1 part pepitas
za'atar to taste
salt to taste 

1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet.
2. Add chickpeas and pepitas.
3. Season with za'atar and salt and saute on medium heat until the chikpeas and pepitas are golden brown.
4. Adjust for salt and serve immediately.

Doesn't this look great? It was really delicious mixed into my butternut squash soup. And I also ate it as is ;)

Make it for your next get together!!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!


Some of My Favorite Ingredients in a Salad: Beet & Orange Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios

This Beet & Orange Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios is not just gorgeous, but it also has some of my favorite things in it. It's a perfect first course for a dinner party or a late night dinner for one. The hardest thing is waiting for the beets to roast: the rest takes minutes!

Some of My Favorite Ingredients in a Salad: Beet & Orange Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios

baby greens
roasted beets, peeled and sliced
oranges, skin cut off, and cut across into circles
goat cheese log
shelled pistachios, chopped
olive oil
orange juice

1. On a plate, place baby greens, sliced beets and oranges. Make a pretty pattern!
2. Roll the goat cheese log in chopped pistachios and carefully cut across. Arrange on the plate.
3. Season with salt and drizzle with olive oil and a bit of orange juice.
4. Serve immediately.

Note: to roast beets, place washed beets onto aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap the aluminum foil tightly around beets, place the wrapped package on a cookie sheet and roast in a preheated oven (425F) for about an hour, or longer depending on how large the beets are.

If you don't want to bother with rolling the goat cheese log in chopped pistachios, you can simply crumble the goat cheese and top the salad with it and then sprinkle the pistachios on top. But I personally think the little bit of effort is worth it.

I could ate this salad daily! Please give it a try.


Shutdown Pasta: Wholewheat Spaghetti with Sundried Tomatoes, Peas & Capers

Well, the government shutdown is continuing. So if you are trying to save money by eating from your pantry, freezer, this Shutdown Wholewheat Spaghetti with Sundried Tomatoes, Peas & Capers dish is for you. It's also a great versatile recipe that will fill you up but that most likely will not require a trip to the grocery store if you've just returned from vacation. And finally, this Wholewheat Spaghetti with Sundried Tomatoes, Peas & Capers dish is a wonderful quick meal to put on a table when unexpected guests show up for dinner.

Wholewheat Spaghetti with Sundried Tomatoes, Peas & Capers
Serves 2-4

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 white onion, diced
1/2 cup defrosted peas
2 tablespoons capers
4 chopped sundried tomatoes
cooked wholewheat spaghetti (I like to have about the same amount of pasta as all the other ingredients put together)
salt & pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
lemon wedges

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and onin and saute until the onion becomes translucent.
2. Add defrosted peas, sundried tomatoes and capers and heat through.
3. Add cooked wholewheat spaghetti, season with salt and pepper and add red pepper flakes. Mix to combine.
4. Right before serving, squeeze a few lemon wedges directly into the pasta and mix.

Doesn't that look great? Of course you can use any kind of pasta you like. You can even add chicken or shrimp or canned tuna, or a fried egg! This keeps well as leftovers: just add a bit more fresh lemon juice before serving.

What's your go-to from the pantry recipe?


Sweet Saturday at Dolci Gelati

I haven't been setting my alarm clock for quite some time: first I was on vacation, then I came back to a government shutdown...not that I'm complaining. But this past Saturday I set my alarm clock because there was something I did not want to miss: a tour of Dolci Gelati including multiple tastings. Thanks so much Kyle for the invitation!

"Dolci Gelati, an artisan gelato company, was started in Washington DC in 2006 by pastry chef Gianluigi Dellaccio. Dolci Gelati offers many great varieties of gelato with a consistent level of quality that can only be achieved with artisan precision. The process starts every morning with deliveries from local dairy farms and includes handpicked fruits, fine chocolate which Chef Gianluigi imports from a small sustainable farm in Ecuador and tempers himself, and other fresh, rare ingredients."

I could tell you how the gelato is made, but I think you'd enjoy more seeing the photos.  Before bombarding you with photos, though, I need to say that I was amazed at the passion and knowledge Chef Gianluigi possessed. Also, his wife and children are absolutely delightful and welcomed us with open arms.

First we checked out the Dolci Gelati factory, and saw first hand how they make and store gelato.

Not only does Dolci Gelati has amazing equipment for making gelato, they also have an oven for bread and pastries that is as big as an elevator and rotates an entire rack full of trays! Use your imagination because it was too hard to take a photograph of it.

After trying the freshly made chocolate honey comb gelato and sampling a few cookies and meringues, we headed to the Dolci Gelati store located in Tacoma Park. It was bright, cheerful, and had the same green color as the color of my kitchen. Great minds and all that ;)

Of course I had to try the mango flavor, and it did not disappoint! My other favorite flavor was chocolate. Speaking of chocolate, if you for some reason don't like gelato, you must check out Dolci Gelati's chocolate tarts. They are not too sweet, with crumbly dough, and a rich chocolate filling. Plus, they look gorgeous!

Other offerings include canoli, affogato, and hot chocolate, and there are more enticing treats coming your way in the very near future.

This was such a delicious way to spend Saturday. I guarantee you'll find something you'll absolutely love at Dolci Gelati. Here's where you can find their cafe, truck and retail locations. Also, be on the lookout for the new store opening in Shaw neighborhood soon.

What is YOUR favorite gelato flavor?


Soba Noodles with Vegetables and Tofu: Perfect Meatless Monday Recipe

I'm a day late for Meatless Monday, but this Soba Noodles with Vegetables and Tofu recipe is really awesome any day of the week for lunch or dinner. You basically choose whichever vegetables you like, add tofu, soba noodles and a few aromatics, and you have a quick, healthy and colorful meal. If you happen not to like soba noodles, use spaghetti, orzo or even rice. I'm not the boss of you ;)

Soba Noodles with Vegetables and Tofu
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 bunch broccoli, chopped (stems and florets separated)
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves, sliceed
1 red pepper, sliced
14 ounces extra firm tofu, cubed
soy sauce to taste
sriracha to taste
cooked soba noodles (about the same amount as the rest of the ingredients put together)
chopped fresh cilantro
toasted sesame seeds 

1. Heat the oil in a skillet, add mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes.
2. Add broccoli stems, ginger and garlic and saute for 5 more minutes.
3. Add the broccoli florets, red pepper and tofu and season with soy sauce and sriracha. Saute until the vegetables are tender.
4. Add cooked soba noodles and combine.
5. Serve topped with cilantro and sesame seeds.

If you have extra time, I'd recommend browning the tofu cubes in oil before adding to the dish. But it's not completely necessary.

You can also mix in a bit of peanut butter into this recipe for a nutty flavor!